One of the reasons I got into fishing originally was because it’s one of the few sports or hobbies you can get into that doesn’t cost money every time you go. But that doesn’t mean getting bass fishing gear will be cheap.
Of course the cost of getting everything you need to get started can vary and depends on a lot of factors. But if you have about $300 to spend – you can get everything you would need to really start your fishing hobby. But if you only have $100, you can probably still skirt by. Or if you have $500, you can really have a good time.
So lets go through each cost you’ll be incurring and where they vary or how you can save money in each.
The most expensive piece of equipment you need to start fishing is a fishing rod. Thankfully a lot of different fishing rods are available for bass fishing, and most of the one’s you’ll find at any bait shop can work.
But in general for an all-purpose bass fishing rod you’ll want to look for a few things. Length should be between 6 feet and 7 feet. The shorter, the more accuracy you’ll have. The longer, the more distance you’ll have. So pick what you care more about (or what fits in your vehicle), and find your length. 6’ 6” is a good medium that I would suggest.
Since you’re probably not looking to break the bank, a solid graphite construction is good to look for. The handle can be made of felt (cheaper) or cork. Felt is less comfortable in the hand, can get dirty or grimy easily when wet, and in sweaty palms it gets slick. I prefer cork which doesn’t have those issues, but generally costs a bit more.
Generally, the more eyelets (circles the fishing line goes through) the more sensitivity a rod will have. So more eyelets are better. But really what makes the difference between a $50 and $500 rod is upgraded materials, lightness, and increased sensitivity.
I’m all for getting those things if you can afford it – but you don’t need it to catch bass. So if you’re looking for a good base model to start building around try out this. It’s a steal for the price and will be a rod you’ll keep for years to come even if you develop an entire arsenal of rods.
Which brings us to another point – do you need more than one rod? Most bass fisherman have multiple rods for the different kinds of fishing they’ll do. Heavier rods for big baits, light rods for small ones, and all different lengths.
Do you need that to start out? Frankly, no. Just get a medium power rod that can handle most light and heavy lures, and get a good length that you prefer. You are going to find what feels right and what you want the more you fish. Don’t buy a bunch of different rods right at the start, just to learn you want something else when you actually start fishing.
Bare bottom price: $40
Ideal beginner: $80
You’ll also decide what type of fishing reel you want to buy before settling on your rod choice. This is because the type of reel has to match the type of rod you put it on. If you’re bass fishing, you’ll want one of two different types of reels. A spinning reel or a baitcasting reel. Depending on which you get, make sure you get either a “spinning” or “casting” rod to match.
Most beginner fishermen start with a spinning reel. They are easier to use and can work with a lot of different baits, species, and types of fishing. Baitcasters are something you’ll grow into if you enjoy fishing and I highly recommend getting them eventually – but for beginning let’s just look at spinning reels.
Spinning reels generally have a handle on the left side (to be reeled with your left hand, right hand on the pole) though you can get it the other way around if you prefer. Just remember you will be casting with whatever hand you don’t reel with. They also feature an open face where the fishing line goes. A bailiff covers it which you can click over to open the spool and let line out (so you can cast). And then click back over to hold it tight (once you’ve casted and you’re ready to reel).
There are many different factors that play a role in what a spinning reel will cost. Size, brand, ball bearings, and other advanced technologies can all have a factor. But really, even the cheapest of spinning reels will work fine out of the box.
The Pflueger President is probably my favorite, and I even have it on a few rods of my own even though I am an advanced fisherman. It’s just a great priced option that is smooth and reliable.
The keys to look for are at least 5 ball bearings and a size that feels comfortable in your hand. Most reels you can even test in stores, so imagine throwing and winding it and see how comfortable and smooth it feels to you. If it feels good, buy it.
Just don’t spend over $50 on a beginner reel. Sure, it will be nicer and reel more smoothly. But you’ll be better off spending your money on new baits before going to $100 or more fishing reels. Particularly with spinning reels.
Bare Bottom: $30
What to look for: $40-50
You’ve got a rod, you’ve got a reel, last thing to do is put some line on it. And you really have a lot of options you can go with.
Generally, bass fishermen will use monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braided line. They all shine in different scenarios, and learn more about them here. But for a beginner fisherman, monofilament is in my opinion by far the best choice.
This is because it stretches and isn’t as prone to knotting or looping. Stretching helps because you can fight fish easier without breaking your line. And less knotting means as you’re learning to cast and reel, you won’t get frustrated quite as easily. So it’s just going to be your best bet to start with and you can upgrade later on.
Best of all, monofilament can be found pretty cheap. Trilene XL is always my recommendation and you can find it in most any store. It’s been a standard for years and while it is not necessarily the best line out there, it’s great for its price. Try either 8 or 10 lb test to start with and you’ll have a line that can last all season.
Do know that most reels will hold about 100 to 150 yards of line, and most fishing line comes in spools of 300 yards. So you only need one spool and can outfit two rods.
Base Price: $10
Max Price: $15
You’ve got your rod all figured out, so now it’s time to get into hooks, sinkers, and the other things that fishermen call terminal tackle.
This is where you can really be minimal or go crazy. If you read every type of bass fishing rig there is – you’ll end up with over $100 of weights and hooks easily. Many types of terminal tackle exist for very specific uses which, as a beginner, you probably should refrain from until you’re more advanced.
So what you need to just start is pretty simple. You probably just need two different types of weights, and one type of hook. There will certainly be certain techniques or baits you can’t use with this setup, but you can still use 80% of them, which is a good place to start. Then you can grow into more specialty setups as you learn more.
First, get a pack of 3/0 worm hooks. These are long shank hooks that work well for a variety of soft plastics (or rubbery, fake imitations of things fish eat). You can use lizards, worms, senkos (a great beginner bait you can learn more about here) craws, or many other baits with this one hook.
Hooks come in different sizes where the preceding number (3, in 3/0) grows as the hook size grows. So, a 1/0 is smaller than a 2/0, on up to about 5/0 usually. 3/0 is a great medium, all-purpose size that can be used with most baits.
Also, you will find that there are EWG hooks and straight or offset hooks. The simple difference here is the width, or how the hook bends around to the tip. EWG stands for Extra Wide Gap, which gives more room for a soft plastic to breathe, and more room for a fish to chomp down. It’s why I recommend it for beginners.
But you’ll likely need a weight to go with this hook. Without weight, it’s hard to actually cast a lure and it won’t sink to the bottom of the water where the fish are. It will just float on top or sink very, painfully slowly.
I recommend getting two types of weights to start with. A bullet weight and a split shot. Bullet weights are triangular or bullet-shaped and will move freely up and down a fishing line when placed in front of a hook. This means when you cast, the weight will lead the hook (and bait attached) down and where you want it to go.
A split shot is more ball shaped and can be clamped into place on your line so that it doesn’t move freely. This allows the bait to stay behind your weight if you don’t want it directly on the bottom and can be used in a variety of fishing applications.
Good weight sizes for both would be ⅛ ounce or ¼ ounce if you are beginning. If you fish shallow water (under 5 feet) then try ⅛ ounce. Deeper than that, go for ¼ ounce. Or get a mix if you like, thankfully weights are one of the cheaper things to buy in fishing.
Base Price: $10
Most you should spend: $15
Some baits to put on your hooks is the next important step and the one area where you’ll probably have to check your spending. There are hundreds of baits, made by hundreds of manufacturers, in all different sizes and colors.
But I’ll tell you something everyone else won’t – they’re mostly all pretty similar. It’s not like one bait will catch bass and another won’t. And chances are not only one bait will work on your fishery. Multiple will if you fish them correctly.
So don’t complicate this too much. Think about what types of baits you like and want to use and all the things that bass may eat. Try to get a small sampling of each, and just start with that.
To me, that means I’m going to be getting the following. This encompasses a lot of different techniques, colors, and presentations in a small sample that won’t break my budget.
1 pack of green pumpkin senko
1 pack of black/blue ribbontail worm
1 pack alabama craw speed craw
1 squarebill crankbait in baitfish color.
1 whopper plopper in loon color.
You can get all of that for around $50. And even though it’s only 6 baits, you can hit everything you need to. You can fish the top, middle, and bottom of the water. You have all of a bass’s favorite color combinations. You can fish slow, or you can fish fast. You can mimic a baitfish, a frog, a crawdad, a worm… really anything a bass eats!
So think about that as you do your shopping and try to limit yourself to under 10 baits to start out with. Chances are you’ll be drawn to a few or even just one that you have a lot of success with. Then buy variations off at that and before long you’ll be building a full tackle box!
Bottom price: $50
Suggested price: $75
One thing many beginning fishermen will forget about is a place to store all the things they purchase. Rod & Reels can hide away pretty easily or stand by themselves. But you’ll want a good place to store your soft plastics, terminal tackle, and related fishing gear.
The first decision here is do you fish mostly from the shore or a boat? If you’re a bank beater, I’d recommend going with a backpack. They’re comfortable and way easier to carry around than lugging a tackle box everywhere. But if you’re in a boat, a tackle box is the best choice as it’s easier to get into.
In addition you’ll probably want small bag that can fit into whatever tackle box/bag you choose that will hold your soft plastics. Soft plastics will keep best if you keep them in original packaging, so try to find something that will hold lots of soft plastic bags.
Weights, hooks, and the like are better in hard plastic packaging. You’ll find these all over bait shops so find one that fits well into your bag/box and has the ability to change compartment sizes as your gear changes. Something like this is what I have and love.
All together, you should be able to keep this under $100. The good part is if you buy good, quality materials they will last a long time before you need to buy more as you collect more baits, weights, and hooks.
That is all you technically need to get started fishing, but there are a few extra things that will really make your life easier and help you enjoy bass fishing a lot more.
First is a good pair of pliers. This will help with cutting your fishing line when you tie on new baits, but also can help you pull a hook out of a fish’s mouth cleanly if it goes a little deeper than you can reach with your fingers. Even if it’s really jammed in a bone, pliers are extremely helpful in removing hooks safely.
Secondly you’ll want to invest in a decent digital scale. Catching a fish is fun, but knowing how much it weighs is pretty important for tracking your progress. And it’s the guaranteed way to prove you aren’t making up fishing stories when you tell your friends how big your catch was.
You can purchase a specialized fishing rag to clean your hands, but frankly I always use old kitchen towels. Specialized sunglasses are also great, but maybe you should wait awhile before shelling out the money for those. Fishing gear like UV proof shirts, wide brim hats, or good traction shoes if you’re hitting muddy banks can all be worthwhile investments as well.
This is where you can spend a little if you have it, or really barebones if you don’t. Pliers are definitely the first thing you should buy and then think about a scale as well. Other things probably will be collected with time and also make great gift ideas from friends or family members!
So now let’s add up all that spending to see what it really costs to start bass fishing. If you do the bare-bottom base price of everything listed above. It comes out to just $255 dollars. So your really can get started fishing with very little investment!
But if you want to go a step above the barebones approach and really make your first bass fishing outing enjoyable, I’d recommend investing a little more for some upgraded equipment and good quality baits. That will end up probably putting you around $350 all in. Which still isn’t bad considering you will only buy it once and probably get a handful of fishing trips before you get the bug to go buy more.
But if that doesn’t work for you or you want to save a little more cash, let’s look into some cost-saving measures you might want to look into.
Buy gear used on eBay
I like shopping on eBay for used fishing rods and reels, especially when I’m looking for more pricey models. For a lot of reasons, people may end up selling their fishing gear that is lightly used and basically in like new condition. So you can get a $300 fishing pole for half that if you keep your eyes peeled.
Obviously be wary of scams, make sure you know exactly what you’re purchasing, and know that shipping fish rods in particular can be dangerous. If there is an insurance option, I would pay the extra to insure the package and make sure you get what you pay for.
Also, if you’re buying a lower-end rod that is under $80 or so, you probably should just buy new. Chances are you won’t find a good quality one on eBay and the shipping cost will likely outweigh any savings. But if you’re looking for a G. Loomis, St. Croix, or other name brand rod, you can really find some deals from time to time on eBay.
Buy tackle/baits from the bargain bin
If you go to more big-store retailers, like my favorite Bass Pro Shops, you’ll find a lot of “bargain bin” type promotions. Usually these are lesser quality baits or tackle, but at rock bottom prices that are hard to beat.
Look through to see if you can find some brands you recognize or even just try a few of the cheap ones if they’re good deals. You would be surprised how even cheap lures sometimes work well in your local fisheries. My favorite frog to fish in my local pond is still the Scum Frog, which is $4 compared to the “better” $11 by Spro that all the professional fishermen recommend.
Attend fishing event meetups
Probably the best way to get discounted, or even free, fishing gear is to attend a local meeting of bass fisherman. You can find them just by googling your area or look for facebook groups. Chances are there is a bass angling club somewhere near your area.
These fishermen have likely bought bass fishing gear for decades and may be willing to sell you some of it for low prices if you’re really interested in learning. Maybe even befriend one and see if they’ll take a fishing trip with you and supply the equipment. That’s the best way to see if you really would enjoy bass fishing or not. Go with someone experienced who can show you the ropes.
But do be wary, you will not compare with beginner gear to most of these fishermen. They will likely have spent thousands of dollars on tons of poles, reels, baits, and things you’ve never heard of. With time, if you love the sport, maybe you’ll get there. But don’t go buy it all from the start. They will probably tell you the same, and that they don’t even use half of what they have anymore!